Groove in a garden

Open Gardens at Evette Sunset's Etre in South Austalia.

It’s a Sunday in South Australia. I get my groove on in a couple of gardens.

My groovy Sunday begins in the garden of environmental sculptor Evette Sunset. Her Willungal garden “Etre” is just 630 square metres, but she’s reshaped the old mechanic’s back lot into a thoughtful landscape of textures, moods, and food plants.

Evette is a member of Open Gardens. Homeowners like her invite visitors like me past their gates and into their yards. For about eight dollars (which goes to a charity) we can nibble tasty treats, sip lemonade, explore exotic and local plants, and mingle with other green thumbs.

The Groove Garden

When afternoon rolls around, I hop on the bicycle to pedal to The Groove Garden Café in the village of McLaren Vale (map).

Groove Garden in McLaren Vale, South Australia.
The Blues Casters at the Groove Garden in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

I join new friends Leith and Sue for the season opener of the Sunday-only, pop-up venue.

It’s an old church on one side and a towering gum tree on the other. In between, a performance stage, tikki bar, and tables of rhythm-and-blues lovers fill the space with music, colour, and energy.

Each week local musicians play blues, rock, country, reggae and folk music. Samra Teague organizes the open-air jam session between serving cheese platters and ice buckets of bubbly wines.

When the music winds down at six, I get back on my bike and hit the Shiraz Trail bicycle route back into my home base of Willunga. The rail-trail connects the villages of Willunga and McLaren Vale on its route towards Adelaide.

The bike ride is beautiful as always, and it’s a great way to keep the day groovy.

Coast to Vines Shiraz Trail.
Way-finding signage on the Coast-to-Vines Shiraz bike trail in South Australia.



Join an Eco Village, unintentionally

New Years Eve 2016 in Port Willunga, Australia.

It’s New Year’s Eve and a crowd is gathering on the sands of Port Willunga, South Australia.

But it’s not a crowd of bogans and Eskys and stubby coolers—it’s a funky, hippie crowd. They’re wearing tie-dye, hand-woven fabrics, ethical leathers, and Indonesian-style face paints.

Rumour has it they’re from the Aldinga Arts EcoVillage down the street. According to their website, they are an intentional community that, “…showcases the exploration of new lifestyles for a more humane, sustainable future.”

They’ve flagged an area of the beach off for sand castles. One of the castles looks like a pyramid. One tanned, face-painted fellow grins and digs at the sand like he is unearthing organic potatoes.

Another man, perhaps in Thai fisherman pants, walks by with an empty wine glass in one hand and what looks like a didgeridu novelty item in the other. He occasionally toots on it plaintively.

After the sun sets, he joins a few other men at the foot of the sandy cliff wall. I hear bongo drums and maybe a gamelan.

Appreciation or appropriation?

There’s a pop and whistle and then all eyes turn to the pyramid. “It’s a volcano!” exclaims a small boy.

The pyramid-volcano unsettles me.

Sand sculpture pyramid on New Years Eve 2016 in Port Willunga, Australia.
Sand sculpture pyramid on New Years Eve 2016 in Port Willunga, Australia.

It unsettles me the way the Mexican churro-selling Copenhagen café in the German-themed village of Hahndorf in the heart of the British colonist-settled ranges of the Kaurna, Ngadjuri, and Peramangk Peoples’ territories unsettles me.

It unsettles me that way a traveller, visitor and guest should be unsettled.

I try to listen, learn, and make sense of the mish-mashed, mixed metaphor that is contemporary and ancient culture, ceremony, artifice, authenticity and—intention. And it’s one reason I started travelling deep (one place for a longer period of time) rather than wide (many places in a shorter period of time)

But I admit I still can’t make sense most of the time. And I’m learning that is an unsteady-but-acceptable way to be, at home or away.

I can’t help but think of a funny and useful how-to video I watched back in Canada. It was part of CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) podcast on Indigenous culture, Unreserved. The podcast episode was called, Exploring the fine line between appreciation and appropriation.

(Watch the video: Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation, 03:37)